Lightweight Sport Climbing Harnesses Group Test

If sport climbing is your main thing then you will probably want to buy an appropriate harness. Ideally it'll be something light and comfortable, with enough features but basically pretty simple. Such a harness would also be great down the wall, and could double up for some single-pitch trad.

Sport Climbing Harness review

Back in 2012 we looked at lightweight harnesses, which were just beginning to come of age due to advances in webbing technology. So what has moved on since then? In this in-depth review we are looking at 11 dedicated sport climbing harnesses that aim to keep the weight right down, while still having adequate comfort and a basic sport-specific feature set.

For those interested in a more all round harness, look at our two relatively recent reviews:

For this new set, the harnesses were tested by a big all-male team on sport routes in the Peak District, in the Costa Blanca and down at local walls over a period of a few months. We generally went for the lightest option available. There may be some super-lightweight alpine harnesses now that pack down into tiny bundles of less than 100g, but you wouldn't want to work a 30m sport pitch in one! All the harnesses here have fixed leg loops - we went on the assumption that most sport climbers aren't going to want to fiddle around with extra buckles.

Martin McKenna on Araña Blanca (7b) at Cocentaina  © Alan James
Martin Mckenna testing the Edelrid Ace in the Costa Blanca

Why Would You Want a Harness Just For Sport Climbing?

The answer to this question for many people is - "I wouldn't want one". The fact is that for a lot of climbers, a single harness for all types of climbing is fine. However, if you are serious about pushing your sport climbing grade to your limit, then getting the right harness is important. The benefit in comfort, lightness and a trimmed-down feature set mean that you can put your harness on and pretty much forget about it and concentrate on your climbing. Extra buckles, loops and clips will not get in your way and you can get closer to feeling like you are climbing completely unencumbered by gear. The saving in weight may not be that great, but we are all using lighter quickdraws, lighter ropes and lighter helmets these days and when you add it all up, it could be a kilo or more saved - perhaps the difference between sticking that crux hold or dropping it.

How to Choose a Sport Climbing Harness

A harness is like a rock shoe, you need to try it on before you can be sure that it is suitable for you - and this usually means a visit to a shop.

Lightweight - This is obviously one of the main things you are after. The harnesses in this review range from an incredibly light 250g to 420g with most around the 300g mark. In general, if it is described as a sport climbing harness, it will be light.

Gear loops - All the harnesses except one (Arc'teryx SL340) in this review have four gear loops and most don't have a fifth loop although sometimes there is a smaller loop designed for a chalk bag or the like at the back that can be used for multi-pitch sport routes. A harness with only two gear loops is not good for trad climbing, or multi-pitch sport climbing, so if you intend to buy just the one harness then look elsewhere. Most of the gear loops are formed to hold the gear away from your harness, but some aren't. Some designs are moulded to push the gear to the front when you remove a quickdraw.

Sport climbing harness review gear loops  © UKC Gear
Various different gear loops are available

Fastening - The standard nowadays is self-locking buckles with little variation between them. The only thing to watch out for is the tag-end of the belt which tends to be longer than you might expect to allow the wriggle room to get the harness over your hips without un-threading it. This is more pronounced for narrow-waisted people (women) and can leave quite a long tag-end. The methods for tucking the tail away vary and are worth checking out since you may find yourself short of the tuck-away if the harness is a bit small, or vice-versa.

Fitting Tips

Check the rise - this is the distance between the leg loops and the waist belt and it varies between manufacturers. The correct rise should see the harness sitting comfortably on you, allowing freedom of movement and so there is no pulling between your leg loops and waist belt. If there is some pull on your leg loops, slacken the rear elastic loops that join the leg loops to the waist belt, or the opposite if they ride too low.

Walk around in it. Do some high kicks and feel for it pulling on you indicating it is probably small and might need adjustment. Most shops have a hanging belay set up - use it and feel how your legs feel after a few minutes sitting. Can you re-adjust your position easily to lessen the strain on one area of your leg?

Women's Versions

Women generally have a smaller waist-to-leg-loop size (leg-loop-to-waistbelt ratio) and a longer rise, both dimensions that should be reflected in women's-specific harnesses. Women also wear their harness on their waist whilst men wear them on the hip. Three of the harnesses in this review come in Women's versions - Black Diamond Zone, Mammut Alnasca and Wild Country Mission. Ocun have a Women's version of the Neon but it has adjustable leg loops so is a bit different. We have indicated which have a women's version in the main table below, but it shouldn't be assumed that the brands which don't offer female versions are by definition not suitable for women since the general adjustability of harnesses could be make them fine. Try them on!

When to Replace a Harness

Most manufacturers say five years of normal use, then get rid of it. If you are using your harness every weekend, consider replacing it after two years. It is a life-saving piece of kit and old harnesses have failed on climbers with fatal results. Always pay special attention to the wear and tear on your belay loop.

Overall summary


Arc'teryx

SL 340

Price: £110

Weight (size M): 340g

Women's Version: No

Fit and comfort

90%

Features

50%

Weight

60%

Durability

80%

Value

50%

Overall


Beal

Ghost

Price: £86

Weight (size M): 250g

Women's Version: No

Best in Test Highly Recommended Large

Fit and comfort

80%

Features

80%

Weight

100%

Durability

70%

Value

70%

Overall


Black Diamond

Zone

Price: £80

Weight (size M): 307g

Women's Version: Yes

Best in Test Highly Recommended Large

Fit and comfort

80%

Features

70%

Weight

80%

Durability

80%

Value

70%

Overall


Climbing Technology

On Sight

Price: £47.50

Weight (size M): 295g

Women's Version: No

Best in Test Large

Fit and comfort

90%

Features

80%

Weight

80%

Durability

80%

Value

100%

Overall


Edelrid

Ace

Price: £110

Weight (size M): 303g

Women's Version: No

Best in Test Highly Recommended Large

Fit and comfort

80%

Features

80%

Weight

80%

Durability

70%

Value

60%

Overall


Edelweiss

Placebo 2

Price: £60

Weight (size 1): 310g

Women's Version: No

Fit and comfort

70%

Features

70%

Weight

80%

Durability

60%

Value

80%

Overall


Grivel

Apollo

Price: £60

Weight (size 1): 400g (Our measure)

Women's Version: No

Fit and comfort

70%

Features

80%

Weight

50%

Durability

80%

Value

80%

Overall


Mammut

Alnasca

Price: £99

Weight (size M): 295g

Women's Version: Yes

Best in Test Highly Recommended Large

Fit and comfort

80%

Features

80%

Weight

80%

Durability

80%

Value

50%

Overall


Ocun

Neon

Price: £69.95

Weight (size M): 290g

Women's Version: Yes but only with adjustable leg loops

Best in Test Highly Recommended Large

Fit and comfort

70%

Features

80%

Weight

90%

Durability

80%

Value

70%

Overall


Wild Country

Mission Sport

Price: £75

Weight (size M): 420g

Women's Version: Yes

Fit and comfort

80%

Features

80%

Weight

30%

Durability

80%

Value

70%

Overall

Arc'teryx SL-340 - £110

The SL-340 is an extremely comfortable and stylish offering from Arc'teryx. It's one of the few harnesses on this test to offer only two proper gear loops, and at 340g it's certainly a light harness by most standards, although not one of the lightest in this review. It's a great choice for single pitch cragging or using at the climbing wall due to its comfort and solid offerings of essential features, although it is rather pricey.

Fit and comfort

The comfort of the SL-340 is perhaps the harness's strongest point. The characteristic extremely wide Arc'teryx hip belt spreads the load you're carrying comfortably across your hips and lower back, whether that is simply the weight of the harness and some quickdraws, or the lead climber you're holding whilst they check out the moves, or even the hanging belay you're (involuntarily) hanging in. As such, thanks to its 'Warp Spread Technology', the SL-340 is one of the most comfortable harnesses in this test, so if you're looking for something comfortable and relatively light this is a great option.

The SL-340 tightens with a single self-locking buckle and feels very secure. We find with some harnesses that it can actually be a bit of a pain tightening the waist belt as it takes a bit of shifting the thing around plus two hands to get the optimum fit, whereas the SL-340 cinches easily with one hand. The leg loops are elasticated, although not adjustable, and the harness fits snugly without being tight. Despite being a lightweight harness the SL-340 is well made, robust and durable, and looks like it will last a long time.

Features

The SL-340 has two large front gear loops and one small dyneema loop at the back. The two plastic-coated front gear loops are large enough to hold a substantial rack of quickdraws between them, certainly enough for any sport pitch, and they dip slightly at the front so that your quickdraws are always within reach, rather than around the side of your harness. This does mean that if you have lots of draws they can bunch up a bit but we've found that the gear loops are large enough that this isn't much of an issue.

A wide waist band and a big gear loop  © UKC Gear
A wide waist band and a big gear loop
© UKC Gear

The disadvantage of having only two gear loops is that you can't differentiate between pieces of gear, whether that be different lengths of quickdraws, extenders, slings etc. For many this will mean that the SL-340 isn't suited to multi-pitching where you want to be able to quickly and easily store and select different pieces of gear and you might also be carrying things like a belay jacket and guidebook on your harness. The small dyneema loop on the back would be useful for your belay device and a couple of carabiners in this case, but that's about all it can take.

The SL-340 also has two extra rear loops described as 'haul' loops although they are a bit small to actually haul anything from and it isn't that clear what these are used for. The elastic leg loop supports is held in place by a stainless steel quick hook on the back which allows toilet access without removing the harness if required.

Summary

The SL-340 is a very comfortable and stylish harness which is best suited to single-pitch cragging and climbing walls. Only 2 gear loops makes it less useful as a trad all-rounder. It is quite pricey (more than double the price of some in this test) and it's not the lightest at 340g. Having said that, there is certainly something to be said about sacrificing weight for comfort and, if just going down the wall or onsighting sport routes outdoors, we might well consider packing an extra 100g for the sake of being comfortable when belaying or sitting in your harness.

Arc'teryx SL-340 Harness catalogue  © UKC Gear

  • Sizes: XS, S, M, L (70cm - 96cm)
  • Weight: 340g (size M)
  • Hard wearing Burly™ Double Weave absorbs little to no moisture, dries quickly and is soft against skin.
  • The waist belt construction is updated with a softer edge that creates less pressure and improves overall comfort.
  • Warp Strength Technology™ cradles the body and the load is universally dispersed from edge to edge.
  • Unisex size fits women and men.

Arc'teryx say:

The SL - Superlight - is the lightest and most compact Arc'teryx climbing harness and is streamlined, nimble, and created specifically for sport climbing.

For more info see: arcteryx.com

Beal Ghost - £86.00

Best in Test Highly Recommended Large  © UKC Gear
Coming in at just 250g*, the Beal Ghost is the lightest harness on this test. Despite this it makes no sacrifices in functionality: it's a fully featured harness including four gear loops to carry all of your gear. It is quite evidently at the lightweight end of the spectrum, being much thinner than the Arc'teryx SL-340 for example, but nonetheless it performs extremely well and is a great harness.

*270g in the size large we reviewed.

Fit and comfort

Whilst the Ghost is a super lightweight harness it still manages to be pretty comfortable. The hip-belt is not much thinner than a regular harness and it spreads the load evenly over your hips and waist thanks to the Web-Core technology. For belaying at the crag, at the climbing wall, or even on a multi-pitch route, the Ghost is great - although it wouldn't be our first choice for long hanging belays.

A simple but surprisingly effective leg loop adjustment system  © UKC Gear
A simple but surprisingly effective leg loop adjustment system
© UKC Gear

The Ghost is easy to adjust on the hips although in a size large it's slightly baggy on the 32 inch waist of our reviewer. The leg loops are elasticated, featuring an 'auto-adjust system' which in practice is some elastic you can slide up and down to tighten the leg loops a bit. It works fine and is a nice addition, particularly considering that many lightweight harness don't have this feature.

Features

The Ghost really is pretty skinny and on first acquaintance we thought: is this thing really going to hold a fall? (of course it does, meeting all the safety standards and being made by one of the most experienced harness manufacturers!). Despite being skinny all the features that you want in a sport harness are there: there's two rigid, plastic coated, front gear loops, two flexible rear gear loops and a tiny back gear loop which Beal say is for hauling rope but is more likely to be used for a belay plate. With four gear loops in total there's ample space for your standard rack of quickdraws plus slings, screwgates, a belay jacket and whatever else you might want on a multi-pitch sport route.

One rigid gear loop and one flexible on each side  © UKC Gear
One rigid gear loop and one flexible on each side
© UKC Gear

The other notable feature of the Ghost is that the straps that attach the leg loops are elasticated dyneema in a tubular shape, rather than the more normal flat elasticated straps. Apparently this is to reduce weight and increase abrasion resistance. We can't imagine the normal straps weigh much and, as the Ghost's straps seem to get tangled a bit more, it seems to be a case of 'if it ain't broke don't fix it'. The straps are also detachable from the back of the harness although it's a struggle to detach them as the nose of the buckle is too big for the loop it attaches to. The Ghost also features two ice screw holders but for sport climbing this isn't of much interest - perhaps you could put a brush in one!

Being a skinny harness the Ghost has skinny components, such as the belay loop and tie-in loops. As such they're likely to wear out more quickly than a more robust harness, but that's the sacrifice you make to go as light as possible!

Summary

The Ghost is an excellent lightweight harness. It's fully featured and adequately comfortable whilst being extremely light, which makes it great for single pitch climbing and the climbing wall. The four gear loops mean that you can carry enough gear for multi-pitching and so it's suitable for almost every sport climbing situation. It is rather skinny and therefore not the most durable as such, if you're into your long sieges, it might be best to choose a more substantial harness for working long term projects.

Beal Ghost Harness catalogue  © Mike Hutton

  • Sizes: S, M, L (65cm - 105cm)
  • Weight: 250g (size M)
  • Ultra light and compact thanks to the Web-Core technology
  • Surprisingly comfortable regarding its lightness
  • Auto-adjust system for legs
  • Dyneema straps for more resistance to abrasion and less weight
  • 2 rigid gear loops on the front
  • 2 flexible gear loops on the back for more comfort when carrying a backpack
  • 1 rear ring for hauling rope
  • 2 loops for attaching ice screw holders / 3 different sizes

Beal say:

Ultra-lightweight and comfortable harness for expert climbing and mountaineering. It benefits from the latest Web-Core technology which provides exceptional levels of comfort despite its lightness thanks to optimal pressure distribution on hips and thighs. 4 gear loops, a rear ring for hauling rope and 2 loops for attaching ice screw holders makes the GHOST a particularly multifunctional harness.

For more info see: sport.beal-planet.com

Black Diamond Zone - £80

Best in Test Highly Recommended Large  © UKC Gear
The Black Diamond Zone is a lightweight sport harness in disguise: it looks like just like a normal harness whilst coming in at only 307g. It might not be one of the very lightest harnesses in this test but, considering that it has a padded hipbelt, four rigid gear loops and is robust enough to take some wear, the weight verses performance measurement is certainly in its favour.

Fit and comfort

The padded waist belt of the Zone is comfortable to climb and belay in and, for a lightweight harness, it's not excessively thin meaning that weight is distributed evenly over your waist. The Zone tightens with a regular buckle which is easy to use and goes pretty tight if you want it to. The leg loops are also nice and wide and padded, however the elastic system which allows them to widen (without itself being manually adjustable) takes a bit of pressure to actually widen meaning that, although our reviewer doesn't have big thighs, the leg loops do feel a little tight.

Features

The most noticeable feature of the Zone is the gear loops. In short, they're small. Fortunately there's four of them and they're each proper rigid gear loops. Each gear loops can take seven sport draws so, despite their diminutive appearance, you're not going to run out of racking space. We have also found that, despite initial concerns, they're not fiddly to use. Our reviewer has however got thin fingers so if you've got big hands you might find them a bit fiddly. There are no rear gear loops and, whilst four gear loops is enough for sport multi-pitching, you may find that the racking space on the Zone quickly becomes less spacious once you add some screwgates in.

Small gear loops  © UKC Gear
Small gear loops
© UKC Gear

The other standout feature of the Zone is not very sexy but it is quite important if you want a harness that's going to last: the tie-loops which attach the belay loop to your waist and leg loops are very robust. In particular, the tie-in loop which attaches your leg loops to your gear loop is 1.5cm wide and 1cm high and feels very thick - this is an area that often wears first on a harness and the Zone hasn't seen any wear here yet; we're confident it will last a long time. The straps which attach the lower tie-in loop to each leg loop are (uncharacteristically for the Zone) quite thin - if there was to be any wear after extended use we would expect it to be here but, as this area doesn't see much friction, we don't foresee it being an issue.

Robust tie-in loops  © UKC Gear
Robust tie-in loops
© UKC Gear

A slightly ineffective leg loop auto-adjustment system  © UKC Gear
A slightly ineffective leg loop auto-adjustment system
© UKC Gear

The Zone also has two points for Hub racking carabiners - ie. ice screw clippers (to which you could also attach other bits and pieces). This might be of interest if you're indulging in some continental-style ice tool wielding, though it's pretty niche on a sport harness.

Summary

The Zone is a lightweight harness with all the features you need for single-pitching, multi-pitching and using at the wall. Four robust gear loops make the Zone stand out compared to some of the other harnesses in this review, although they may be a bit fiddly if you've got big hands. Due to its robust construction and comfortable hip belt the Zone is an excellent choice if you're looking for a lightweight harness that is hard wearing and fully featured.

BD Zone Harness catalogue  © Mike Hutton

  • Sizes: S, M. L, XL (69cm - 99cm)
  • Weight: 307g (size M)
  • Fusion Comfort Technology
  • Speed buckle adjustment
  • Fixed leg loops
  • Contoured fit
  • Four pressure-molded gear loops
  • 4 gear loops
  • 2 integrated slots for Hub racking carabiners

Black Diamond say:

Designed for the lightweight sport climbing redpoint, the Black Diamond Zone Harness is a bolt clipper's dream. High performance, lightweight and breathable, it features Fusion Comfort Technology, so you'll have ample support when hang-dogging your project. A stretch woven outer fabric adds breathability, and contoured fit maximises comfort.

For more info see: eu.blackdiamondequipment.com

Climbing Technology On-Sight - £47.50

Best in Test Large  © UKC Gear
The On-Sight from Climbing Technology is a solid performer that positions itself as a sport climbing harness but with a build, durability and features that also point towards an all-rounder. It is the only harness in the CT range without adjustable leg loops and does weigh-in at an impressively light 290g, but the padded belt and leg loops and large gear loops make it a very suitable choice for those after a general harness as well. The strength of the harness comes from a single tape loop that is embedded in the padded sections.

Fit and comfort

Of all the harnesses in this review, the On-Sight is probably the most straightforward one to fit initially. It holds itself open and seems to resist twisting around on itself in your rucksack. This simplicity extends to the single buckle fastening (common with most harnesses) and elastic adjustment for the back of the leg loops. A comfortable well-fitting harness is one which you don't notice when it is on, and that is certainly the case for the On-Sight.

Once on you want to be able to tuck away the loose strap to keep it out of the way of your gear. The On-Sight has two tight elastic loops to keep the strap held in place, and these are flexible enough to work with different lengths of extra strap. This is a plus for this harness over many others since it has been something that has traditionally been neglected in the past by harness makers.

Features

The harness has a light but solid belay loop that is held captive by both the leg loops and the waist belt. It has four large gear loops which are the popular combination of plastic shaped loop held in a tube sheath. The loops are mounted on the harness in such a way that they spring up when not loaded making access easy. They are also formed to push the gear to the front as you unload. Plenty of room here for a full set of 20 quickdraws, or a decent trad rack as well if you wanted. At the back there is a single extra loop designed to be for a chalk bag. This is a bad idea! Always keep your chalk bag on a flexible cord so you can swing it from side to side if required. Having said that, the loop is useful for other things like a bail out karabiner or belay plate. It could do with being a touch bigger though.

There are few other features on the On-Sight. It doesn't have any ice screw loops making it slightly less of an all-rounder - but a harness that appeals to sport, winter and alpine is probably asking too much anyway... and it's not what we were after here in any case.

Summary

Simplicity, ease of use and a great price are the key here. This is a great general harness that has enough gear capacity to also be used for trad whilst maintaining comfort for sport climbing and at an impressive light weight. At this price we really couldn't fault it, making it our Best in Test this time.

Climbing Technology On Sight Harness catalogue  © UKC Gear

  • Sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL (65cm - 95cm)
  • Weight: 295g (size M)
  • Ergonomic lumbar belt that provides optimum comfort when using the harness
  • An adjustment buckle and a plastic buckle to easily adjust the free end of the waist belt strap
  • Four large gear loops
  • T – shaped leg loops to provide greater comfort
  • Rear loop for the chalk bag

Climbing Technology say:

Lightweight and durable harness, designed for sport climbing.

For more info see: climbingtechnology.com

Edelrid Ace - £110

Best in Test Highly Recommended Large  © UKC Gear
A good light harness, the Edelrid Ace comes in at 303g (size M). The waist belt and leg loops use a unique web technology that aims to spread the load while ensuring breathability. It comes with a stripped down feature set, fixed leg loops and a single buckle.

Edelrid Harness in use during the UKC Team Trip to Costa Blanca

Martin hanging around...

Fit and comfort

For the weight of the Ace, just over 300g, the level of comfort is very surprising. Edelrid describe the webbing used as "3D-Vent Lite technology: very good fit and wear comfort via HDPE (High-Density PolyEthylene) webbing in waist belt and leg loops that spreads load transmission and ensures maximum breathability without adding bulk". This manifests as broad solid-feeling webbing with plenty of ventilation, and that still holds it shape and gives a decent amount of padding.

The Ace has a relatively uniform size back support on the waist that eventually tapers slowly towards the front of the harness. The waist closes with a single cinch buckle that has a couple of well placed tuck-aways for the flap. The leg loops are wide and supportive. While not adjustable the elasticated webbing near the front means they can easily be positioned on the upper leg and will reliably stay put while climbing and generally moving round the crag even on legs as thin as our our reviewer's.

Features

There are four gears loops which are actually two gear loops with a central divider. The front section has a plastic cover over a solid but flexible cord, while the back section is just the cord. There is no tapering of the loops to channel the gear towards the front. The loops work fine and give plenty of space although the back section of the loop needs the weight of gear to retain its 'loop' shape to an extent. There is a tiny rear loop which is probably designed for a chalk bag. As a nod towards being an all-rounder it does have two ice loop attachment points although in the context of this review, that isn't really a plus point. The leg loops are held up at the back by thin elastic straps that feel a little flimsy to us.

Summary

A very nicely designed lightweight harness that has great comfort and feels more solid that its 300-odd grams might suggest. It has a good compact feel and ticks all the boxes for sport climbing. The gear loops are slightly unconventional but adequate, and compared to some more competitively priced rivals it is a bit expensive at £110.

Edelrid Ace Harness catalogue  © UKC Gear

  • Sizes: S, S/M, M/S, M, M/L, L (69cm - 98cm)
  • Weight: 303g (size M)
  • 15 mm Slide Block buckle on waistbelt for secure and comfortable fit
  • 4 symmetric gear loops, attachment options for ice screw clips, chalk bag attachment loop
  • Individual fit due to the combination of different hipbelt and leg loop sizes
  • 3D-Vent Lite technology very good fit and wear comfort via HDPE (High-Density PolyEthylene) webbing in waist belt and leg loops that spreads load transmission and ensures maximum breathability without adding bulk

Edelrid say:

Super-light harness with 3D-Vent Lite technology for demanding routes on rock and ice.

For more info see: edelrid.de

Edelweiss Placebo 2 - £60

The Placebo 2 from Edelweiss is a padded harness which manages to look substantial but come in at an impressively light 310g. It is more adjustable than most fixed leg loop harnesses and has a dual buckle fastening system restricting it to two sizes only in the range but also making it an option as a versatile all-rounder. Weird name, though.

Fit and comfort

Loose on the floor this harness can look a bit of a complex mess but a bit of tugging gets it into shape. Once you pull it on, your are given the option of a dual buckle system. The thinking here is that it gives a wide range of fits whilst always allowing you to centralise the buckle and keep your gear loops symmetric. For us, two fastening buckles is one more than necessary when looking for lightweight and we would prefer a wider size range in terms of numbers of models to accommodate the range of waist sizes. That said, this is still a light harness and once on you don't really notice the extra buckle.

There is an innovative fastening system on the leg loops (unique to Edelweiss) which enables you to adjust them but without presenting a buckle and flapping tape strap. Adjusting leg loops is not something all of our review team have always looked for in a harness, especially not one that we want to use for fair-weather sport climbing, however this is certainly a good system that works very well and is a plus for this harness adding to its all-round appeal.

The design is the standard 'tape giving strength, and padding giving comfort' model. In this case the padding is significant on both waist belt and leg loops which is another achievement considering the weight.

Features

As mentioned this harness's main feature is its adjustability. The twin buckles and innovative leg adjustment system make it a good all-rounder for those climbing in different environments requiring different clothing. They also don't really get in the way when you want to drill down to the bare minimum for sport climbing. The twin buckles both have long tail flaps that can be tucked out of the way under elastic straps to stop them flapping about. Unfortunately these tuck-away straps are set quite far back so, if you are fastening it a little wide, the chances are that your flap won't reach the tuck-away - a minus point for the adjustability.

Edelweiss Placebo 2 leg loop fastening  © UKC Gear
The innovative leg loop adjustment system

Edelweiss Placebo 2 gear loop abrasion  © UKC Gear
The early abrasion on the gear loop

The harness comes with four gear loops and a single small loop at the back for inessential gear. The gear loops are plastic inserts in nylon tubes. They are a decent size and slightly angled towards the front although not in a way that will push your gear forward. They also suffer from a poor construction which is undoubtedly going to prove a wear point in use. Even after only a small amount of use we have found some abrasion on the nylon sheath. The plastic inserts are not well formed and they present a pointed edge which causes this abrasion. This needs some attention in future models since a better formed plastic gear loop with tapered ends would avoid this problem.

Summary

A good padded harness with a huge amount of adjustability including an innovative leg loop system that still maintains its light weight. Slightly let down by poorly designed gear loops, but it comes in at a good price.

Edelweisse Placebo 2 Harness catalogue  © UKC Gear

  • Sizes: Size 1 (69cm - 87cm), Size 2 (82cm - 100cm)
  • Weight: 310g (size 1)

Edelweiss say:

SOLID spirit for a sport harness means efficiency in movement, natural comfort and ideal features at the right place. The PLACEBO 2 has all these features and will also endure years of hard-wearing use.

For more info see: edelweissropes.co.uk

Grivel Apollo - £60

Upon first acquaintance the Apollo is one of the bulkier harnesses on review, with a chunky belay loop, large webbing around the leg loops, and a twin buckle fastening at the front. According to Grivel it comes in at a competitive 290g, but according to our scales it is significantly heavier, weighing in at a fairly hefty 400g. Despite that it's a comfortable harness, fits well, and is great to use.

Fit and comfort

Whilst the twin buckle design may not be in the true spirit of weight saving, it does mean that you can guarantee a good centralised fit no matter your waist size. The contoured webbing fits like a glove, with little or not bulk, and next to skin comfort.

The leg loops have an elastic retainer to keep them nice and snug, but the elastic itself is actually quite loose - fine if you have big legs, less fine if you don't. Overall the design doesn't feel quite as precise as some of the other harnesses on test, being at the basic end of the spectrum, and containing a lot of thick webbing. Whilst this does become taut when you've got it on, it looks a little clunky on the ground.

Features

The Apollo features four spacious gear loops, with a small loop on the back for belay device and essentials whilst multi-pitching. The gear loops themselves are reinforced and stiffened, which is great if you're climbing a long pitch and require a few extra quickdraws.

Summary

The Apollo is definitely onto something, insofar as it is an exceptionally comfortable harness, with a well designed and comfortable feel; however, outside of the waist belt it - rightly or wrongly - feels at the basic end of the spectrum and would benefit from a bit of refinement in the belay loop, leg loops, and elastic retainers. Maybe we're expecting a little too much, as it comes in at a competitive £60, but we feel it would benefit from a bit of weight saving and slimming down of some of the features. Also its claimed weight was not what we measured.

Grivel Apollo Harness catalogue  © UKC Gear

  • Sizes: Size 1 (67cm - 87cm), Size 2 (80cm - 110cm)
  • Weight: 290g* (size 1)
  • Web-Core technology
  • Simple and comfortable
  • 2 adjustment buckles
  • 2 sizes

Grivel say:

The APOLLO is classic, fully adjustable harness thanks to its 2 waist buckles and fully adjustable leg loops. It benefits from the latest Web-Core technology yet it climbing

For more info see: grivel.com

*our version weighed nearer 400g

Mammut Alnasca - £99

Best in Test Highly Recommended Large  © UKC Gear
At first glance the Alnasca looks pretty standard - single buckle, four gear loops, fixed leg loops and tie-in loops with a reinforced plastic section on the leg loop tie-in point. However closer inspection reveals that the key feature of this harness is the waist belt, which uses some clever technology to provide support and reduce weight.

Fit and comfort

It is slightly floppy on the ground so needs laying out correctly before you step into it. Once on, the single-buckle tightening system works fine although the second tuck-away for the strap is slightly too far back, we fear, for some people if they have fitted it on the small side. This could also be a problem when wearing extra clothes.

The aforementioned technology in the waist belt is described by Mammut as "a combination of split webbing design and Mammut® Frame technology". What this manifests as is a belt with padding held apart by a reinforcement to the mesh and an internal layer that gives the feel of a full padded waist belt whilst actually only having a small strip of padding at the top and bottom. This is extremely effective and manages to give great comfort at under 300g.

The leg loops have a strip of elastic to hold them together and provide size flexibility without being baggy or too tight. The standard elastic cinch at the back allows you to adjust the height easily.

Features

Beyond the waist belt, the feature set is pretty standard. The four gear loops are slightly different though, with the main front two pre-formed plastic that's tapered towards the front. These have a notch which presumably is to hold a few pieces at the front although we are not sure how worthwhile that is if the taper is correct. There are two more smaller cord gear loops behind. These are a little small in our opinion but otherwise fine and better than having a second plastic set. There is another tiny loop at the back which again is for those misguided people who want to clip their chalk bag into the back of the harness and fix it in position. It can't really be used for anything else so is actually pretty superfluous.

Summary

This is an excellent very light harness with an innovative design that gives plenty of padding whilst not adding any bulk. It has a good basic feature set and adds comfort. At £99 it is quite expensive, but performs as well as anything in this review.

Mammut Alnasca Harness catalogue  © UKC Gear

  • Sizes: S, M, L (73cm - 96cm)
  • Weight: 295g (size M)
  • Innovative split webbing technology
  • 2 stable gear loops and 2 ultra-lightweight gear loops
  • Aluminum Slide-Bloc buckle
  • Ultra-lightweight protector prevents wear on tie-in loops

Mammut say:

The next level - this ultra-light sport climbing harness boasts the latest technologies and a progressive design. The Alnasca uses a combination of split webbing design and Mammut® Frame technology (a lamination process that applies a TPU reinforcement to the mesh material in order to increase the lateral stability of the harness). This allows even distribution of pressure across the entire surface of the harness and unprecedented suspension and comfort. This is enhanced by the anatomical cut and extreme breathability of the harness.

For more info see: uk.mammut.com

Ocun Neon - £69.99

Best in Test Highly Recommended Large  © UKC Gear
The Neon from Ocun is another impressively padded harness that comes in at a very light 290g. Like most Ocun gear, it comes in a very bright colour - green in this case - with white trim. It has a standard single buckle design, fixed leg loops and four nylon-covered plastic insert gear loops.

Ocun Neon Harness action

Fit and comfort

This is an easy one to put on since the stiffness of the padding holds the waist belt and leg loops open so that you can quickly orient the harness and step in. The single cinch buckle makes it easy to tighten and tuck away the strap flap under a couple of elastic retainers. All very tidy and easy so far. There is a slight bagginess to the belay loop that hangs forward a bit due to the stiffness of the leg loops but we suspect this will reduce with time as it softens. The leg loops feel tight on the size M we tried and most of us have fairly thin legs, so this might be a problem if you have substantial thighs.

The padding in the waist belt is provided by a set of compressed foam inserts sewn into the belt with lightness and ventilation offered by holes in the padding. It is an improvement on the thinner lightweight sport models for comfort which makes it a good option if you are working routes but makes it feel a little more bulky even if that isn't reflected in the actual weight.

Features

The Neon has an efficient and minimal feature set, as you would expect. The belay loop is held captive in the tie-in loops on the legs and the belt with a sewn in retainer rather than the system that sometimes uses an extra buckle. The gear loops are of the nylon over plastic tube variety. There are four which are well engineered and taper the gear forwards. There is a small single loop on the back which is probably designed for a chalk bag (although we recommend you don't use this since the ability to move your chalk bag around when climbing is essential). It is strong enough to hold a single crab for a belay device for example, but a little small and fiddly to be an actual 'fifth gear loop'. The elastic adjustments are easy to fix. They use plastic snap buckles to adjust which can be undone although we are not sure why you would want to undo them.

There are two other models in this series - the Neon 3, which has adjustable leg loops, and the Neon Lady for women but which also has adjustable leg loops.

Summary

The main feature of this harness is the extremely lightweight padding it uses. This gives it a relatively bulky feel but at an impressive light weight. The rest of the harness has a good standard feature set and it is a reasonable price at £69.99. For a long term harness for working routes in relative comfort this is an impressive offering and it certainly won't weigh you down on the crucial redpoint attempt.

Ocun Neon Harness catalogue  © UKC Gear

  • Sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL (59cm - 99cm)
  • Weight: 290g (size M)
  • Padded belt and leg loops with breathable sandwich design
  • High-quality, abrasion-resistant microfiber
  • Integrated wear indicator at tie-in points
  • 1 self-locking stainless steel buckle at the waist
  • Neon colours
  • 4 reinforced gear loops

Ocun say:

The Neon combines lightness with comfort. It won't slow you down during the toughest RP climbs and you can spend hours on end comfortably working on difficult moves. Thanks to its unique padding design, the harness never digs into your skin. The lightest Neon model has only one self-locking buckle at the waist. The D-shaped leg loops give you complete freedom of movement. The design also evenly distributes weight during a fall.

For more info see: ocun.com

Petzl Sitta - £140

Best in Test Highly Recommended Large  © UKC Gear
The Sitta was originally brought into Petzl's range as an alpine harness, but was swiftly snapped up by sport climbers due to its light weight and surprising level of comfort. Coming in at 260g (on our scales) it's one of the lightest on test, however equally impressive is the price tag of £140, which is - by some distance - the most expensive on test (almost 3 times the price of the cheapest). As such, we were intrigued as to whether it justified the cost.

Fit and comfort

In the intro we said 'surprising level of comfort', because upon initial inspection it's hard to believe that something so minimalist is going to be genuinely comfortable; however, comfort is indeed a strong point of the Sitta. The 'Wireframe Technology', which consists of several HMPE (high-modulus polyethylene) strands running around the waist belt and leg loops helps to distribute load, but not only that - it breathes better than any other harness we've ever used due to the space between the strands. Alongside the Arc'teryx SL-340 it's proof that padding isn't everything when it comes to comfort, but the Sitta is in another league of breathability.

Another feature which you're unlikely to notice, unless you really go looking for it, is the bonded construction. Because of this there's no stitching around the waist belt, meaning it's incredibly comfortable and chafe free, even whilst wearing it next to skin (no itching or scratching whatsoever).

When it comes to fit the sizing is accurate, with Medium feeling medium. Whilst they are fixed in size, the leg loops remain snug courtesy of an elastic insert that helps adjust volume without cutting off blood supply or leaving them baggy.

Features

As you'd expect for a harness of this nature it's not abounding with features, saving weight through its stripped back design. That said, it still features a full complement of gear loops, with two rigid loops at the front, two softer loops just behind, and a smaller at the back. The front (and largest) gear loops also feature a divider, which - if anything - we've found gets in the way more than it benefits gear separation (which is its intended purpose). It's a nice idea, but is realistically trying to solve a problem that isn't there - particularly for sport climbing (just rack your short draws at the front, long draws at the back, and life is easy). The rear gear loops are of a softer nature, which is standard throughout Petzl Harnesses, and not particularly to our taste, as it definitely makes quickdraw removal that little bit more difficult. On the very back there's a small space for a belay plate etc.

Another 'feature' could be considered to be its pack size. Whilst this isn't necessarily of key importance to sport climbers, it realistically packs down to a fraction of the size of the other harnesses on review apart from the similar sized beal Ghost. This leaves you with more room in your bag for other key items such as sandwiches, drinks, and other assorted goodies.

Summary

The Sitta is hard to fault: it's not just light, it's very light; it's not just comfortable, it's very comfortable; and it's not just breathable, it's very breathable. However, at the end of the day the purchasing decision is likely to come down to whether or not you can afford it, because at £140 it is very expensive. If you can justify this then it's undoubtedly one of the highest spec, best performing harnesses out there. But for most of us it could be quite a hard price to swallow when you can more than make do with alternatives under half the cost.

Petzl Sitta Harness catalogue  © UKC Gear

  • Sizes: S, M, L (67cm - 92cm)
  • Weight: 270g (size M)
  • Remarkably lightweight, mobile and comfortable
  • Waist belt and leg loops equipped with DOUBLEBACK HD buckles in forged aluminium, offering good grip and fluid glide of the webbing for easy and quick adjustment
  • Two very large rigid equipment loops in front for transporting a lot of gear and for easy clipping and unclipping of tools
  • Two slots for CARITOOL tool holder
  • Bonded construction in the waist belt avoids pressure points and gives optimal wear resistance
  • Durable, abrasion-resistant exterior fabric

Petzl say:

Designed for intensive use in climbing and mountaineering, the high-end SITTA harness is compact, lightweight and exceptionally comfortable. The WIREFRAME construction offers an extremely thin and flexible waist belt that ensures total freedom of movement. The four equipment loops optimise the organisation of all the gear required for progression on ice or rock. The tie-in points are made of high-modulus polyethylene for improved resistance to rope friction and for greater durability of the harness.

For more info see: petzl.com

Wild Country Mission Sport - £75

The Wild Country Mission Sport is a bit of a wildcard in this review. The names says 'sport' but it is an old model and, as such, has been surpassed by the more modern rivals in terms of lightness, design and feature set. It is included here as a bit of a counter point, and a heads up to the new range of Wild Country harnesses appearing in 2020.

Fit and comfort

Having already discounted it for lightweight sport it should be said that this is actually a very good harness as an all-rounder. Its simple design makes it an easy one to put on and the well-padded leg loops and waist belt ensure comfort at all times. It actually manages to feel slightly less bulky than some of the lighter harnesses on review. The leg loops appear to be quite spacious which might be an issue for a the skinny-legged sport climber. The waist belt is tapered around the hips to give more support where it is needed.

Features

The Mission has a slightly larger feature set with ice axe loops and a substantial fifth gear loop at the back. The front belay loop is very solid as are the tie-in points, giving a good impression of durability. The four main gear loops are nylon-covered plastic tubes which give plenty of room for quickdraws and more gear for multi-pitching. They aren't tapered towards the front though, to push the quickdraws forwards as with some other designs. As mentioned, there is a solid fifth gear loop which could hold anything from belay device to trainers on multi-pitch routes.

Summary

The Mission Sport has been around a while and probably was a decent lightweight sport climbing harness once - but now it has been surpassed. Having said that, it is a good solid harness, that is comfortable for sport and will also work for trad if you just want an all-rounder.

Wild Country Mission Sport Harness catalogue  © UKC Gear

  • Sizes: S, M, L, XL (72cm - 102cm)
  • Weight: 420g (size M)
  • Designed around our new figure-hugging V-Flex™ belt it has maximum agility with minimum bulk.
  • Slim articulated and flexible there's a freedom of movement that's essential for modern '3D' super-sport routes.

Wild Country say:

The Mission sport feels connected and confidence inspiring. Lean, flexible and with a high-quality fully-featured finish this is a brilliant sport climbing tool.

For more info see: wildcountry.com (harnesses not covered at the time of writing)

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2 May

Hey UKC-Team,

thanks for all the gear reviews you make. It shows a good variety of products of a certain type. However, I would appreciate if the reviews were a little more objective. Not that it makes the impression, that you favor a product or brand, but for example in this review it would be like comparing cars from small car, over a race car to an SUV and then argueing about that this car is really expensive which is why we chose the small car... Your are comparing apples with pears here. Also stuff like breathability or robustness are judged fairly subjective it makes the impression. As a consumer, I would be for example also interested in the technology of the harnesses. What makes a comfortable harness comfortable and a breathable harness breathable. Sorry for the honest feedback.

JT

This is a review, hence by it's very nature it is subjective. If you want to know more about the technology there's a plethora of information out there already, published by each of the individual brands.

From my own experience wearing countless harnesses all of the techno-jargon used by brands means absolutely nothing when you actually put it on + use it, hence why we don't say a great deal about it. How it feels/performs in use is of far more interest to the end user than whether or not it uses WarpTech Extreme Hypermould fabric, and how that particular material/construction does or doesn't differ from its competitors.

When it comes to 'what makes a harness comfortable and what makes a harness breathable', my suggestion is to do exactly what we did: take 11 harnesses, get a variety of people to use them over a length of time, share opinions and experiences, and collate the feedback. This is impossible to do objectively, simply because not even the brands know an exact formula as to what makes a comfortable harness - hence why there's so many variations out there. Each brand thinks they've got the answer, yet each is different, and some - lest we forget - are crap!

When it comes to apples and pears, this is probably one of the most focussed product reviews we've ever written, solely focussing on lightweight sport climbing harnesses. Were we to have thrown a big wall harness into the mix, or something better suited towards alpine climbing, I might agree, but we don't. Yes, we've got a few Granny Smiths, Coxs, Gala, Pink Ladies, but pears - no...

2 May

Wow, sorry. It was just a feedback of an impression that I got. I do enjoy reading the articles and it is clear to me that this will never be a scientific work. I just expressed a wish for some systematic information backing up some subjective claims. And I stay with my main argument: I don't see a clustering parameter other than "sport climbing" harnesses which is a pretty difficult to define field. But I accept that this is your pears. The price range from 47 to 140 pounds or the weight range from 250g to 420g further does not allow to see a very common category when most of the mentioned brands would have models that fall in a similar category however you would define one (<300g, <100 punds,...). Please take it as a feedback of a reader or let me know if this is the wrong spot to put this and where to submit this in the future if wanted at all. Thats all I have to say :)

> Wow, sorry. It was just a feedback of an impression that I got.

No need to apologise, I'm just trying to address the reasoning behind our approach - no offence was taken or intended.

It may be difficult to define, but given that there's an 1,000 word introduction explaining what exactly a sport climbing harness is - and why you might wish to use one - I'd say we've gone to great lengths to provide clarity on the matter.

When it comes to the range in price/weight, I'm not really sure what you're getting at. Within any given group test there are variations in price + weight. Some cost more, some cost less; some weigh more, some weigh less. These are undoubtedly factors that influence people's decision making process, with some people wishing to work within a modest budget whilst others willing to spent top dollar to get the lightest model.

Here's the right place, and we welcome the feedback, but we also welcome the right to reply :-)

Further to Rob's comments, I think you might be after a more distinct database approach where we have fields for attributes like weight, price, size, etc. This would then enable sorting, filtering and grouping. Correct me if I am wrong if that isn't what you meant.

We have tried this in the past but the number and variation of fields in the system across all gear made it unworkable. Each small category of gear needed a load of new fields adding - breaking strain, different size ranges, rubber type, fixed or adjustable leg loops, axe length, single, twin or half rope, lace-up or velcro, ..... you get the impression.

There might be something in this in the future but it would be an immense amount of work to set up and we are still fundamentally a climbing site and not a dedicated gear review site. It isn't something that we would prioritise especially since our current group tests do amazingly well for views and general reception.

Alan

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